Auto Train Check-in at Sanford

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AudenHoggart

Service Attendant
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Nov 20, 2008
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218
We'll be taking the Auto Train from Sanford to Lorton next month and I know we need to be there by 2:30 (particularly since we've bought early unloading at Lorton.)

My question is what if it ends up that we're arriving quite early. I know there's an advantage to doing so in order to get dinner reservations for the time you want, which would be 7 p.m. for us. But if we're there early can we do the dinner reservation paperwork and then drive back into Sanford for lunch or will we (or our car) need to stay at the station once we've arrived? Is our car loaded once we arrive?

I've read that the City of Sanford runs shuttle buses into downtown for early arrivals. Is this still the case? If anyone has used this, was it worthwhile?

I assume that if we did this we'd need to take our overnight bags with us to and from downtown Sanford.

If none of this seems workable but it still looks like we'll be early should we just pick up some sandwiches en route, or are there decent alternatives at the station.

Should we consider not worrying about the dinner reservation time and just plan to arrive at the station shortly before 2:30?

Any advice/experiences would be very helpful.

Thanks!
 

fixj

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 18, 2014
Messages
194
Location
Panama City, FL
Don't wait til 2:30. As I recall they stop accepting cars at either 2:30 or 3PM. Chances also that you will not be able to get an early diner reservation. I always check to see if the arriving train is on time and show up in the line at 11:30 when they start accepting cars. Then you check in and make diner reserations and they give you a boarding pass. It's much less stressful for me to spend and extra hour or so relaxed in the station than worry about making it at all. Also after they start boarding (2:30 or 3:00 dependinmg on load) they will leave early if they have everyone on board.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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Apr 9, 2009
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Near an Amtrak station
But if we're there early can we do the dinner reservation paperwork and then drive back into Sanford for lunch or will we (or our car) need to stay at the station once we've arrived?
I am pretty sure that once you check in, they will not allow you to have your car back. Even if it is not actually loaded yet, it is queued for loading.
 

priller

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 15, 2014
Messages
50
My question is what if it ends up that we're arriving quite early. I know there's an advantage to doing so in order to get dinner reservations for the time you want, which would be 7 p.m. for us. But if we're there early can we do the dinner reservation paperwork and then drive back into Sanford for lunch or will we (or our car) need to stay at the station once we've arrived? Is our car loaded once we arrive?
Your are committed once you drive up to the booth, there is no "checking in" and driving away.

We always plan on arriving NLT 12:30. There is a store in the station with sandwiches and snacks. I would not plan to arrive at 2:30. Having purchased Priority Offload doesn't change anything on the origination end.

We have never used the shuttle, but I believe they run every 20 minutes and will hold your carry-on baggage for you,
 
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BCL

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2012
Messages
4,150
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
My question is what if it ends up that we're arriving quite early. I know there's an advantage to doing so in order to get dinner reservations for the time you want, which would be 7 p.m. for us. But if we're there early can we do the dinner reservation paperwork and then drive back into Sanford for lunch or will we (or our car) need to stay at the station once we've arrived? Is our car loaded once we arrive?
Your are committed once you drive up to the booth, there is no "checking in" and driving away.

We always plan on arriving NLT 12:30. There is a store in the station with sandwiches and snacks. I would not plan to arrive at 2:30. Having purchased Priority Offload doesn't change anything on the origination end.

We have never used the shuttle, but I believe they run every 20 minutes and will hold your carry-on baggage for you,
The link to the official City of Sanford info on the shuttle has a point of contact:

For more information please contact: Bob Turk, Economic Development Director [email protected]
 

AmtrakLKL

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Messages
352
Auto Train is quite strict with the 2:30 PM cut-off. Given the consequences of missing the train (driving on I-95 or waiting 24 hours), definitely plan to arrive early. Depending on how far one is traveling in Florida, there are lots of places traffic can cause significant delays. I've heard of passengers being turned away from the check-in booth at 2:31pm.

Some people may not realize boarding is finished long before the 4 PM departure time. Boarding typically starts at 2:30 PM and is completed by 3 PM. Between 3 PM and 4 PM the train is being assembled, putting all engines, passenger cars and auto carriers into one loooong train.
 

FormerOBS

Conductor
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Feb 26, 2014
Messages
1,272
Location
Maryland, but a native of Ohio
I'm sure the Sanford downtown shuttle still runs, although I've been away from the operation for some time. If I were you, I would get there as early as practical so you can get checked in and get your dinner reservations. You will have to turn in your car at that time so it can be loaded. As mentioned, there is a snack/gift shop in the station.

When I worked on the train, I often took the shuttle downtown for a more substantial lunch. The van was owned by a fellow named Andrew, and his regular driver was usually Bob. Occasionally Andrew himself would drive. Both very nice and reliable guys. If nothing has changed, here's how it works:

The van arrives at the station about 12:00 noon for the first pickup. It stops for loading near the flag in front of the station. Bob lets you aboard, and he stows your carry on luggage in the rear of the van. It's about a 10 minute drive to downtown Sanford. On the way, Bob explains the process. Your carry on bags will be left at the Visitor's Center operated by the City of Sanford. Someone will be watching it while you are away from the Visitor's Center. I have never heard of anybody having any problems with this. There are several places to eat in downtown Sanford. One of my favorites was always the Colonial Room, which is owned by Michele and her husband. She was a waitress there for many years and they eventually bought the place from Billy when he retired. Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe is a bit more upscale. It's a German restaurant & serves alcohol. The corner cafe is good for light sandwiches. Don't forget to stop at Maya's bookstore. On Saturday, there is a farmer's market downtown. Bob and Andrew always tried to maintain a routine of 20 minutes between trips, but occasionally would deviate, mostly if they were trying to accommodate the needs of passengers who might need to make side trip detours, etc. In any case, they will be sure to pick you up in time to make the train. They are very clear about the time to meet to be taken back to the station. I don't remember ever hearing about any problems with this.

While they don't advertise it, they are permitted to accept tips, and in my experience they deserve them. Aside from that, there is no charge for this service.

I hope other passengers who have used the service more recently will chime in

Tom
 

BCL

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2012
Messages
4,150
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
When I worked on the train, I often took the shuttle downtown for a more substantial lunch. The van was owned by a fellow named Andrew, and his regular driver was usually Bob. Occasionally Andrew himself would drive. Both very nice and reliable guys. If nothing has changed, here's how it works:

The van arrives at the station about 12:00 noon for the first pickup.
The city's website says that it's currently operated for them by Lake Mary Shuttle. The best photo I can find of the van is this one:

img_6292.jpg


And I found this:

http://www.sanfordfl.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=10958

4) Presentation: Lake Mary Shuttle Proposal- Andrew Singh

Mr. Singh presented the Lake Mary Shuttle proposal to the Board. In August of 2014 a van owned by Lake Mary Shuttle was completely wrapped with an image of the waterfront with the City and CRA logos added. Winston Singh Enterprises, Inc., currently has a contract and hold harmless agreement with the City of Sanford. The current contract is relative to the provision of passenger shuttle service between the Sanford Amtrak Auto Train Station and downtown Sanford at an annual rate of $41,975.00 ($115 per day).

With the addition of the SunRail stop and the full wrap of the van, Winston Singh Enterprises (Lake Mary Shuttle) proposes to: Provide passenger shuttle service between the Sanford Amtrak Auto Train Station (600 S. Persimmon Avenue, Sanford, FL 32771) and downtown Historic Sanford Welcome Center (230 East First Street, Sanford, FL 32771), at 20 minute intervals in each direction, seven days a week, from 12:00PM to 3:00PM, on all days of operation of the Sanford Amtrak Auto Train, including holidays.

Provide passenger shuttle service between the Sanford SunRail Station (2720 W State Road 46 Sanford, FL 32771) and downtown Historic Sanford Welcome Center (230 East First Street, Sanford FL 32771), 5 days a week, from 10:00AM to 12:00PM.

Distribute and collect survey material to passengers and/or collect rider zip codes/town of origin for CRA use at no additional charge.

Tally daily ridership and submit daily rider count to the City, along with invoice for service.

Follow a shuttle route as approved by the CRA in order to provide the maximum positive exposure of the CRA attributes.

Employ drivers that will have a neat and professional appearance and read from a script approved by the CRA.
 
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